India Today’s coronavirus special website has been consistently telling you in its reports that understanding Sars-CoV-2 is still an undergoing process. What is clear on the basis of evidence is that the novel coronavirus cannot pierce through the normal healthy skin of humans.
It is still not fully understood how the novel coronavirus actually enters a person’s body. The latest point of debate is whether the novel coronavirus is yet another sexually transmitted virus.
During the recent major global viral outbreaks Ebola and Zika, scientists found that the disease causing viruses could transmit sexually. Research found that Ebola and Zika viruses could survive in a patient’s semen for months after the person had been cured of the disease.
A study on Covid-19 patients in Wuhan, the Chinese ground zero city for the novel coronavirus pandemic, has, however, found no trace of the pathogenic virus in human sperm. Though the sample size of the study was small, having looked at only 34 Covid-19 patients, the findings are comforting as the world struggles to keep a tab on the novel coronavirus spread.
Researchers found that the 34 men, in the age group of 31-49, showed no presence of novel coronavirus in their semen approximately one month after they were confirmed to be Covid-19 patients.
Apart from the small sample size, there is another limitation to the study. That is, this research was limited to examining the presence of Sars-CoV-2 in human semen, and did not consider possible transmission through saliva or sweat among partners.
Further, all these 34 Covid-19 patients had shown mild symptoms. “Unfortunately, we cannot definitively rule out the presence of Sars-CoV-2 in the seminal fluid during an acute infection with severe Covid-19 symptoms,” the researchers said in their conclusion, indicating that there could a possibility that an infected man with a very high virus load may show presence of the novel coronavirus in his semen.
The researchers said, “ACE2-mediated viral entry of SARS-CoV-2 into target host cells is unlikely to occur within the human testicle based on ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression. The long-term effects of SARS-CoV-2 on male reproductive function remain unknown.”
Six patients (19 per cent) demonstrated scrotal discomfort concerning for viral orchitis (inflammation in testicles) around the time of Covid-19 confirmation.
ACE2 and TNPRSS2 are two proteins that the novel coronavirus uses to enter a person’s body cells. External body organs with a high density of these proteins are particularly vulnerable to the novel coronavirus, and thus can become entry gates for Covid-19.
A study — by Imperial College London, the Wellcome Sanger Institute, University Medical Centre Groningen, University Cote d’Azur, and CNRS, Nice — published last week said nose and eyes are likely to be entry points for novel coronavirus.
The researchers said the novel coronavirus requires ACE2 and TMPRSS2 to enter human body cells. ACE2 is a receptor protein to which Sars-CoV-2 anchors itself. Thereafter, TMPRSS2 activates entry of the virus into a body cell.
The study found that two specific types of cells – -goblet and ciliated — in the nose make the organ extremely susceptible to the novel coronavirus as they have a very high density of the facilitating proteins, which are otherwise essential molecules for human body functions.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are also found in good numbers in the cornea cells of human eyes. This makes eyes and tear ducts potential entry points for novel coronavirus.
The mouth is directly linked with the nose and lungs making it another gateway for the entry of the novel coronavirus. The enabling proteins are also found in the esophagus, ileum (small intestine) and colon.
All this points to, the researchers said, potential for faecal-oral transmission of the novel coronavirus. Earlier, a study had found that Sars-CoV-2 can stay active for 11 days in faecal remains.
Presence of enabling proteins in heart tissues could be a possible explanation why novel coronavirus is more lethal for people with pre-existing cardiac problems.
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